Robert Schumann - Heinz Holliger | Aschenmusik | ECM New Series 2395



Music by and about Robert Schumann: Heinz Holliger’s lifelong fascination with Schumann finds further expression in this new recording. On Aschenmusik, a new interpretation of the Swiss oboist-composer’s Romancendres is framed by Schumann’s own works. Romancendres refers to the lost Cello Romances of 1853 which Clara Schumann burned on Brahms’s advice, an act of destruction which outraged Holliger and fuelled the composition of this “music from the ashes” in 2003. Romancendres, however, is not an attempt to reconstruct a lost Schumann composition. It’s a portrait of Schumann, packed with quotations and allusions which are projected, as Holliger says, like a lifetime passing through the mind of a dying man.

Romancendres is prefaced by Schumann’s Romances for oboe and piano, masterpieces which have been part of Holliger’s repertoire for 60 years, and by the rarely-played Studies in Canonic Form which find Holliger on the oboe d’amore. Heinz Holliger: “The studies are magnificent. To me, Schumann is the only 19th-century composer after Beethoven who succeeded in striking a balance between extreme contrapuntal complexity and romanticism. Not even Brahms managed this with the same ease and naturalness. We always feel that his counterpoint is something constructed, while Schumann was capable of dreaming these incredible constructs. This simultaneity of the unconscious and the highly deliberate is the most inimitable thing about Schumann. And he displays it in these canonic pieces. We don't even notice their rigorous construction. The structural side is extremely thorough, but it remains in the background, hiding from itself.”


The album closes with Schumann’s first sonata for violin and piano, with cello substituting for violin. Holliger: “Schumann himself thought it could also be played on a cello. I find it grandiose with this combination of instruments.” Strong performances by Holliger himself and by Anita Leuzinger, solo cellist from the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, and by Austrian pianist Anton Kernjak make this album another important addition to Heinz Holliger’s ECM discography. The album is issued in time for Holliger’s 75th birthday on May 21st.